Schenectady County

Shaky state school aid picture stalls Schenectady school district budget work

There were questions but few answers at the first meeting Wednesday of the new Budget Advisory Co


There were questions but few answers at the first meeting Wednesday of the new Budget Advisory Committee.

School officials do not yet have an idea of how much aid the district will receive. Gov. David Paterson must present his budget plan by Jan. 19.

Superintendent Eric Ely said one rumor circulating is floating around Albany is that Paterson wants to reset aid amounts to the 2005-06 school year.

That would obviously be a worst-case scenario, Ely said. Usually, the Legislature adds to the governor’s proposal.

“We’re probably going to lose state aid and not have as much this year coming in as we have now,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Michael San Angelo said administrators are beginning to try to calculate the so-called “rollover” budget — the cost to maintain the existing programs and staff.

“We don’t have any firm numbers yet that we are comfortable giving out,” he said.

He asked for input and questions on the 2010-2011 spending plan, even making a slight joke of the current dispute over whether to extend his contract past June 30 of this year.

“Please try to keep your comments on a financial basis. Saying to get rid of me is not a financial issue. Saying to eliminate my position is,” he said.

Committee member Ron Lindsay inquired about how the district would resolve the $4 million it lost in transportation aid because of a clerical error.

Ely said Sen. Hugh Farley and other members of the local delegation plan to reintroduce their legislation to recoup that aid, which Paterson vetoed last year.

As for the general aid the governor withheld, Ely said Schenectady only lost about $20,000. The bigger impact was the $1.6 million the governor withheld in a STAR payment.

San Angelo said the district has cut back on purchasing.

Resident Andrew Chestnut said he had an issue with the way the contingency budget was calculated last year.

School officials had said that if residents defeated the second budget, the district would automatically be forced to adopt a spending plan with a 15.8 percent tax increase.

They stated that the contingency budget was based on an inflation factor and the projected enrollment of the school.

San Angelo said Schenectady was not alone. Niskayuna also had a higher contingency budget than the budget that passed.

Board of Education President Maxine Brisport acknowledged that last year’s budget season was difficult and this committee is a first step to stop placing blame. “We have to share ideas, share resources.”

Committee member John Wilson said he wants his voice to be heard. “I’ve complained in the past and nothing has been done,” he said.

The next meeting is set for Jan. 27 at 6:30 p.m. The location is yet to be confirmed but it will either be at the high school or Mont Pleasant Middle School.

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